Thursday, April 27, 2006

CIA and NSA may get arrest power

Amid intense debate over how far the government can go to keep its secrets secret, Congress is taking up an expansive intelligence measure that proposes tougher steps in cracking down on leaks of classified information and authorizes broad arrest powers for security officers at intelligence agencies.

Provisions tucked into the legislation, which the House is expected to vote on as early as tomorrow, represent a major departure from traditional intelligence agency roles in plugging leaks and conducting domestic law enforcement, according to government watchdog groups and intelligence professionals.

"In a moment when the intelligence community should be looking forward toward what it does best, the arrest powers represent a step back toward the Nixon-era abuses," said Jason Vest, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group.

Loch Johnson, a top Senate aide on the Church Committee, which investigated CIA abuses in the 1970s, called it a "worrisome" expansion of power."

That's why we have the FBI and other law enforcement officials," he said. "I don't know that this needs to be an intelligence officer's function. I wouldn't think it should be."

Project On Government Oversight (POGO) letter to Reps Hoekstra and Harman with suggestions and concerns about portions of the FY 07 House Intelligence Authorization Bill dealing with Intelligence Community oversight, whistleblowers, and CIA/NSA Police powers


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